QCHS senior receives rare National Merit award

Melissa Nong is one of six Bucks County students to achieve this National Merit Scholarship Program status.
Posted on 05/13/2020
Photo of QCHS senior Melissa NongBy Gary Weckselblatt

Quakertown Community High School senior Melissa Nong has been awarded a $2,500 scholarship by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. She was chosen from a talent pool of more than 15,000 outstanding Finalists in the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program.

Melissa is one of only six Bucks County students to earn the prestigious award. The other five students are from the Central Bucks and Council Rock school districts.

"More than anything, I just want my parents, teachers and guidance counselors and friends to know how grateful I am to have had their unconditional support throughout high school,” said Melissa, who will be attending the University of Pennsylvania. “Even in my epic failures and moments of defeat, they believed in my potential and encouraged me to reach for my dreams."

Earlier this year, three other QCHS seniors were recognized for their exceptional academic promise: Ian Cummings, Tyler Einolf and Sierra Lee each received a Letter of Commendation. Having four students recognized by National Merit matches last year’s record for one class when Mikayla Fuentes and Adria Retter were Finalists and Nam Le and Hailey Reiss were Commendable.

Melissa, who was born in Vietnam and came to Quakertown as an infant, attended Tohickon Valley Elementary School and Strayer Middle School before QCHS.

She has shown exceptional academic ability and potential for success in rigorous college studies, which the National Merit Scholarship Program is looking for. Besides academics, Melissa seeks out opportunities to help others less fortunate.

She has been involved in several clubs and activities, including treasurer of the National Honor Society, Key Club, Mandarin Club, Math Club, and was captain of the tennis team.

“That Melissa is recognized for her achievement is no surprise to me,” said Principal Mattis Van’t Hoenderdaal. “She is a conscientious and hard-working student with a very bright future ahead of her. This award is certainly well-deserved!”

Assistant Principal Jennifer Carolla said “Melissa is an exceptional student who excels academically and is a true leader. She has been a contributor in our classrooms and school community at large. We are excited for her as she is acknowledged with this prestigious award and we look forward to hearing about all of her future accomplishments!”

A QuestBridge scholar, Melissa has taken 15 Advanced Placement classes, including six this year: Government, English Literature, Computer Science, Calculus BC, Biology, and Physics. Though she has considered becoming a Biology/Chemistry major at Penn, she’s leaning toward PPE: Philosophy, Politics and Economics at this time. She won’t have to declare a major until her sophomore year.

“I’m just really happy with the opportunity I’m getting,” she said. “This is amazing.”

Melissa’s 1500 score on the 2018 Preliminary SAT, which served as an initial screen of National Merit entrants, is achieved by fewer than one percent of today’s U.S. high school seniors. After scoring 1480 on the SAT, she took it again and achieved 1550 out of 1600. She encourages students who want to improve their scores to explore Khan Academy. She said it was her “best friend in the summer.” Data suggests that 20 hours of personalized official SAT practice on Khan Academy leads to, on average, a 115-point increase.

This year’s National Merit Scholarship Program began in October 2018 when more than 1.5
million juniors in approximately 21,000 high schools took the PSAT/NMSQT, which served
as an initial screen of program entrants. Last fall, the highest-scoring participants in each state,
representing less than one percent of the nation’s high school seniors, were named Semifinalists on a state-representational basis. Only these 16,000 Semifinalists had an opportunity to continue in the competition.

From the Semifinalist group, some 15,000 students met the very high academic standards
and other requirements to advance to the Finalist level of the competition. By the conclusion of
the 2020 program, about 7,600 Finalists will have earned the “Merit Scholar” title and received a
total of more than $30 million in college scholarships.

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215-529-2028 or gweckselblatt@qcsd.org.
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